Artist Robert Morris, a defining voice of American conceptualism, and a contributing force in the development of an American post-war avant-garde, has passed away at the age of 87. The artist, who embraced a complex and ever-shifting series of investigations into the production, elaboration and understanding of both the art object and its function in both exhibition and broader cultural modes, passed away after a battle with pneumonia.
First studying at the Kansas City Art Institute, Morris would move first to San Francisco and then to New York, where his work would embrace the creative prompts of Marcel Duchamp, and evolve into a series of investigations on the production and understanding of the art object’s relation to the systems that produced it, gradually evolving into a unique, ever-shifting series of objects and iconographies. His work in the past years has included massive felt sculptures, bronze figurative sculptures and mirrored environmental installs, always drawing on space and scale to subvert and deconstruct the gallery as space of visual consumption and productive space in turn.
“Robert Morris was a complicated, restless, often controversial, sometimes misunderstood, and utterly crucial figure in the history of art after 1960,” says Jeffrey Weiss, a former senior curator at the Guggenheim. “As both artist and critic, much of his work during the 1960s and 70s was foundational to so-called Minimal, post-Minimal, and conceptual art, which means that his legacy is far-reaching and indelible.”